Mark's Top Ten Movies of 2017
I don’t think I’m breaking any ground when I say that 2017 was a good year for film. Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, and many more of today’s best directors released movies this past year, which is why it’s so surprising how few of them are on my list from this year. Instead, my list contains two first-time directors (Kevin Phillips and Greta Gerwig) and many more who I was unfamiliar with before the year began.
2017 was also a great year for me personally. After graduating college in 2016, this past year began my adult life as I started a real job. It was also the year that I started volunteering at the Chattanooga Film Festival and worked for a time at a local independent movie theatre. I also started writing more seriously and started a movie podcast with my friends. I’ve spent more time thinking about movies this year than any other year previously and it’s been a great improvement to my life.
Compiling a list of my top ten movies this year was hard, because there were so many great things released this year. Every time I sat down to write I would think of another that I wanted to watch before I could definitively pick my favorites. If you’re interested in more of my thoughts about the year in movies (such as favorite actors, actresses and directors), I go into more detail in the most recent episode of the Best Pictures podcast that I host.
Dunkirk is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Intercutting between three stories from the evacuation of Dunkirk, it captures three different views of the event (the land, the sea, and the sky) and through them assembles a complex view of war and everything that goes with it. Christopher Nolan masterfully weaves these stories together, never losing an ounce of momentum in the transitions. It grabs you from the very first moment and doesn’t release you until the very end.
2. The Big Sick
Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon have found the key to romantic comedies: base it on real- life and write it as a couple. This movie contains my favorite joke of the year (which is also the best 9/11 joke of all time), and a family dynamic that I can’t help but relate to. Kumail’s struggle to separate his everyday life from his religious family’s expectations of him is familiar to me, and his decision to be upfront with them is inspiring. Simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking, I could see this becoming something that I eventually watch a million times.
3. Call Me by Your Name
Personal Shopper, Lady Bird, and Call Me by Your Name all center around people maturing, learning how to live as an adult. Timotheé Chalamet gives an outstanding performance, wordlessly letting the audience into his inner thoughts while also hiding them from those around him. Watching him come out of his shell, both sexually and emotionally, is really touching. It’s a scary time in someone’s life, and his conversation with his father at the end is one of my favorite scenes of the year.
4. Personal Shopper
2017 was the year that I truly began my post-grad life, leaving behind my university town and the support system of friends that I had made there. It took me a while to realize why I related to Personal Shopper so much, but I saw a lot of myself in Maureen as she learned to live her life without her twin brother. It’s a beautiful film, and Kristen Stewart is captivating. She commands the audience’s attention whether she’s riding a scooter, changing into a dress, or sending a text.
5. Super Dark Times
Super Dark Times, a story of two teenagers who are involved in an unexpected tragedy and then fight to keep a secret, is one of the most tense and stressful movies I’ve seen in a long time. First-time director Kevin Phillips captures perfectly the loneliness that grief can bring. Both of the lead actors (Owen Campbell and Charlie Tahan) are incredible, slowly withdrawing in their own ways as they internalize their grief.
6. Lady Bird
Lady Bird is one of the most emotionally honest films of the year. Every scene feels so familiar, yet so specific. Covering the senior year of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson’s high school life, we follow her as she drifts through relationships and friendships. The movie is full of delightful moments, and realistic relationships that are anchored by Saoirse Ronan’s titular performance and a supporting cast that doesn’t have a single weak point. Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut could not have been any more perfect.
7. The Florida Project
Being an adult is hard. Being a kid is fun. Brie Vinaite and Brooklynn Prince capture those two ideas perfectly, in two of the best performances of the year. They play a mother and daughter trying to make ends meet in a motel outside of Disney World. The film is a beautiful and touching look at a family that would normally be written off as white trash. Instead of being judgmental and demeaning, Sean Baker humanizes those who are normally overlooked, making this story touching, sad, and full of heart.
8. Phantom Thread
2017 was the year that I first began to enjoy Paul Thomas Anderson movies, and Phantom Thread feel right into my wheelhouse. PTA works best when he’s building restrained tension and Phantom Thread is the epitome. Civility is maintained throughout (almost) the whole film, but the power dynamics are never doubted. Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day Lewis bring the best out of each other, with Lesley Manville’s limited presence making itself known as well. If this really is Day-Lewis’ final performance, he truly went out on top.
9. Blade Runner 2049
I hadn’t seen the original Blade Runner until a few months before its sequel came out, but I’m glad I was able to see it in preparation for this one. That film has such a distinct style, methodical and inventive in its depiction of the future, and the sequel doesn’t miss a step in continuing that style and building on it. Denis Villenueve continues his winning streak with this film that’s every bit as thoughtful as the original, looking deeply at what it means to be human, what it means to love, and what it means to establish a legacy.
10. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the most unique voices working in cinema today. His world is supremely surreal. His dialogue is uncomfortably stilted. His characters feel inhuman. But at the same time, his most recent film is one of the most captivating of the year. Colin Farrell has clearly settled into the rhythm of Lanthimos’ dialogue, and newcomer Barry Keoghan keeps pace, continuing his standout year that began in Dunkirk. Surreal and uncomfortable, this movie is astoundingly unsettling yet also approachable.